Activities, Anxiety, Teacher Tools

Personifying Worry

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How annoying is it for you when you’re really upset and someone says, “Don’t worry, everything will be fine,”? I don’t know about you, but for me, this tends to just make me feel worse because everything doesn’t  feel fine in that moment. Our students are the same way. Simply dismissing their anxiety or worry often just spirals them. If everything was fine for them, then they wouldn’t have the big feelings in the first place.

Talking about worries and anxiety with students can be kind of tricky. In order to make this easier, I like to try and bring anxiety to life through personification (and show them the SELS What is Anxiety Video too!).

Children (and people in general) really like to personify objects. Doing so helps them to make sense of the world around them in a way that is much less threatening. Bringing a student’s anxiety to life and talking about it like a real person can help students logically and playfully process their feelings around this concept.

So, how do I do this? Well, it really is NOT a new concept. I’m pretty sure many people have done this in the past, but my favorite way to personify worry is through worry monsters. Not only do I have my students create their own, but I also have one that has been “trained” to eat their worries when they just need to let them go!

Psst… I have inculded free resources in this post! Keep reading to find them!

Introducing the Concept

I LOVE a good read aloud! If you have read other posts on this blog, you have probably figured that out by now. I like to introduce the worry monster by reading the book Worry Says What? by Allison Edwards.

This book follows a little girl throughout her day. As she goes through her day, her worry follows her around speaking untruths which make her question her skills and abilities. In the end, the girl learns different sayings that help her ignore and tame the worry! This book is great to introduce the worry monster because… well… obviously the worry is already personified in the book as a big ‘ol monster that follows her around!

Here are some discussion questions you can use after reading this book:

  • · Discuss how the worry monster in the story always seems to come around at the worst possible times (when the girl wants to play, when she is in the classroom, at gymnastics etc.). 
  • · Point out how the worry monster makes the girl feel and what it causes the girl to do (makes her feel lousy and keeps her from doing what she wants).
  • · Review what the little girl does and says to her worry monster at the end of the book that makes him say, “What?”.

Making your Worry Monster

Have any of you checked out Arts for Kids Hub (AFKH) on YouTube? I always loved directed drawing as a kid, and this channel is loaded with a variety of different directed drawings that my students LOVE. If I’m being truly honest, I really enjoy following along, too!

They also have an awesome video on “How to Draw a Scary Monster” that is great to use for a free way to create a worry monster! Start the video and let your students follow along to create the monster. There is a part of the video that asks them to draw a monster inside of the other’s mouth (starts at ~8:20). I usually skip this part, then answer my discussion questions by writing their answers inside of the mouth instead. The monster in this video is awesome to use when you’re debriefing with a student about their worry because it EXPANDS! That’s right! You can use the monster and have students show you how big their worry was by opening/closing the monster. So fun!

You could always just use the free sheets (below) to have your students draw and discuss their monsters, but the AFKH video is one of my favorites!

After the students are done creating the worry monster, I take the time to discuss a few things:

  • What is your worry monster’s name?
  • What do you think is the most important thing for me to know about your worry monster?
  • When do you notice your worry monster the MOST? The LEAST?
  • How do you feel when your worry monster shows up (nervous, anxious, worried, scared, etc.)?
  • How does your body feel when your worry monster shows up?
  • What are some things your worry monster says to you when they are lurking around?

How to Defeat the Worry Monster

Our worry monsters tend to make our minds race with thoughts that aren’t always true. Most of these distorted thoughts often focus on the worst possible outcome. This leads students down the rabbit hole into thinking that things are worse than they actually are, which in turn, depleats their awareness of the resources that are available to help them. I teach students a variety of ways to combat the negativity monster, but one of the easiest is the stop/think/do concept.

You can use the first picture to help explain this concept to your students. I like to tell mine that the worry monster really does NOT like it when you start to question the things that they say or make you think. It is the easiest way to get them to quiet down so that YOU can think about what is ACTUALLY happening and take action to make things better!

Wrapping it all Up!

I try to normalize the worry monster again when I wrap up this concept. We talk about how we ALL have worries, and then I share some of those that I used to have when I was young (tornadoes in every thunderstorm, getting a question wrong on a test, etc.). I then talk about how I trained my worry monster to EAT my student’s worries and read the book The Very Hungry Worry Monsters by Rosie Greening and Lara Ede.

After the book, we talk about what each of the monsters liked to eat (the specific worries), and I tell them that MY worry monster likes them ALL! So – here’s where you would have some options. You could (1) use the print out candies to have students write their worries on and feed to your monster or (2) use craft pom-poms and have your students whisper their worries into them before feeding them to your monster!

Wondering about what your monster should look like? You have some options here too! I really like the monster plushie idea because it can double as a calming lovie when needed (mine has gone into a class to eat the worry of a student…or two.. or more…). You could also simply use the Build a Monster Clipart set to decorate a tissue box and get the same effect (could be used to cut/paste their own monster, too!)!

Have a creative way YOU have used worry monsters? Share them in the comments below OR on the SEL Sketches Facebook page!

Check out the Resource Collection for the free resources! Consider it a bonus for getting to the end of the post!